February is the month of love — and that love extends to a love and respect for your health and body. In honor of Heart Health Awareness Month, we’re challenging you to incorporate more of these 5 heart healthy superfoods into your weekly meal and snack rotations.
Black beans: Perhaps one of nature’s most perfectly balanced foods — black beans are one of the best food sources of soluble fiber (4 grams per 1 cup of beans). Soluble fiber helps drive bad cholesterol out of the body and lower risk of coronary heart disease and heart attack. They’re also rich in magnesium and zinc, two minerals that promote cardiovascular health, as well as folate. As if that’s not enough, the dark skin of these beans contain powerful antioxidant compounds that may help reduce total body inflammation that can lead to heart disease.
Eat more: Add black beans to a breakfast burrito, a potato and chicken sausage skillet dinner, soup, salads, or make a black bean and corn salad/salsa.
Salmon: It’s no secret that salmon is a superfood in many ways. Numerous studies have shown the heart health benefits from eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, specifically those from fatty fish like salmon, sardines, trout, and anchovies. Just 4 ounces of wild salmon contains 1500 – 2000 mg of omega 3 fatty acids – more than the minimum of what most experts recommend for the day. One study showed that women who eat the most fish per week (more than 5 servings) had a 30% lower risk of heart failure. Aim to eat at least 2, 4-ounce servings of fatty fish, like salmon, each week.
Eat more: Don’t be afraid of cooking salmon at home! Broiling or baking salmon is easy and keeps fishy kitchen smells to a minumum. Try this easy recipe for maple mustard salmon. And don’t forget to eat canned salmon too. It offers a super tasty and convenient (and less expensive) way to incorporate salmon dishes, like salmon salad or these salmon tacos, into your weekly meals. If you don’t mind the bones, choosing a variety that has them gives you more calcium. But if you’re not a fan, choose a skinless and boneless variety like Bumble Bee Skinless and Boneless Pink Salmon.
Walnuts: All nuts are chock full of healthy mono and polyunsaturated fats, which can help keep your good (HDL) cholesterol up, help you feel more satisfied, and help your body absorb certain nutrients better. Walnuts made our list because they are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which may offer even more of a heart healthy benefit.
Eat more: Add chopped walnuts to hot or cold cereal; snack on a portion of 2 tablespoons of chopped walnuts, or 8 walnuts halves paired with a piece of fruit like an apple (bonus because the apple has soluble fiber!); use walnuts as a crust for fish or chicken; blend them into smoothies; or use in a homemade trail mix (whole grain cereal, dried fruit, and walnuts).
Berries: Raspberries, blueberries, black berries, and all other berries are full of antioxidants and fiber, both of which can help lower your risk of heart disease. In fact one cup of raspberries contains 8 grams of fiber — nearly a third of a woman’s daily recommended fiber intake!
Eat more: Berries are so tasty, and delicious “as is”, that it’s easy to work them into your diet. They’re naturally sweet, which means they can help sweeten up plain versions of foods so you don’t need to depend on pre-sweetened foods or add any sugar. Toss raspberries on to unsweetened versions of cold cereal, yogurt, and oatmeal.
Spinach: Spinach is one of the most convenient veggies to prepare – and we love that because it’s also packed with heart healthy nutrients like potassium, folate, fiber, and lutein. But, getting more of all vegetables in your diet is key to preventing heart disease. Aim for at LEAST 2 1/2 cups of veggies per day.
Eat more: Top 2 cups of raw baby spinach with chopped walnuts, sliced strawberries, and salmon or tuna salad, or grilled chicken, for a heart healthy salad; add baby spinach to pasta with marinara sauce; add to soups; saute spinach and add to a breakfast sandwich made with egg and reduced fat cheese.
How are you adding these 5, and other heart healthy foods, to your meals and snacks this month?